Cycling for Dummies

So I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I got a bicycle. The fundamental reason for doing this is my desire to bike through my new hometown of Cape Coral, and secondarily, my hope is to get in shape and eventually participate in some multi-sport races (such as triathlons, aquabike, etc.). And well, I will admit that I have entertained the idea of proposing a resolution for the Annual Meeting of SBC in Indy for all ministers to reduce their carbon footprint by riding bikes to church instead of their SUV’s and Oldsmobiles (in the spirit of the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Change Initiative). 🙂

The last time I rode a bike on a regular basis was when I was a freshman in college which shortly ended when one of my fellow baseball teammates borrowed it . . . and wrecked it. That was almost ten years ago, so guess you could say that I am new to the cycling world.

Up until today, the longest ride I have done was 7.1 miles (which I did two days ago). My goal today was to make my first 10 mile ride, and I even mapped it out. Well, feeling pretty good, I felt like veering off the scheduled course and go for a little more. Bad idea. I realized I was lost when I entered the next town north of us. A scheduled 30 minute ride turned into an 1 1/2 hour ride–from 10 miles to 23 miles! Yikes. (If you go here, you can see my routes – route 1 was the schedule course, and I ended up doing route 4!).

So I thought I’d share some of the things going through my mind as a freshman cyclist, perhaps more fittingly described as a cycling dummy:

1. Stay with your scheduled course. Progressing from a PR 7.1 to 23 miles is not a good idea.

2. Invest in a water bottle and holder. 45 minutes into the ride the lactic acid made it hard to swallow. To say I was parched after 23 miles is an understatement.

3. Think again about riding on the busy highways, especially if you are like me and don’t have a helmet or reflectors on your bike.

4. One hour into it, I thought, “I wish I had one of those cycling shorts with those cushy pads.” Either that or get me one of those grandma bike seats. Sheesh.

5. When tempted to downshift, dig deep and stay in gear. You will feel better about yourself afterwards.

6. Develop a solid cadence because it will help make longer distances feel shorter.

7. Invest in some sunglasses. The wind sheer and bugs in your eyes is a nuisance.

8. When traveling down country backgrounds, expect lots of foul smelling horse and cow manure–and big dogs chasing after you.

9. Carry a little cash on you in case of emergency. Man, when I passed a couple of country stores, I was tempted to auction off the only thing I had–my bike tool–for 20oz. bottle of water.

10. Don’t drink a 40 oz. Dr. Pepper just before riding. Try some high quality H2O next time.

Nothing profound. It’s not supposed to be (see title). Anyway, I think I am going to really like cycling. One of these days I am going to be like one of those dudes who doesn’t have to pretend he knows what he is doing–save the jerseys and all. 🙂

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35 Comments on “Cycling for Dummies”

  1. D.L. Kane Says:

    Delightful Post, Timmy – Thanks for sharing. You might add to your list a little “pepper spray” which comes in a handy clip-on case for your bike. Having 2 pit-bulls chase you down after a 20 mile ride is not a pleasant experience. Speaking from experience though–It’s amazing how much energy you can muster up when faced with a situation like that! I highly recommend the “pepper-spray” as a back-up precaution.

  2. Congrats on your accomplishment, bro. If you biked as much as you blogged, you would be winning those races by the end of the summer (says the guy who writes every night) :).

    Seriously though, now that you know you can do 23 miles, 10 should not be a problem at all.

  3. Well probably what bothered me the most was the really big trucks that should not be on those narrow roads making me feel guilty that I was on *their* road. Not cool. ‘Round here, the roads are not made for cyclists–no room whatsoever. So just about the time I had a major climb, a big truck was riding my tail! After twenty miles or so, I just didn’t care any more. I almost dared them to run me over. 🙂

  4. Thanks Terry! The bike section of an “Olympic Triathlon” is 24.9 miles, so I was pretty close. I think what I am going to do later this week is try to do the ten mile course (route 1) and see if I can run a 5k after that. Putting it together would be really challenging, I think.

  5. Glenn Baker Says:

    Good for you, Timmy! I am much older than you (early 50s) and resumed road cycling years ago. I did the same bit: first 5 miles, then 7, 10, 15, 20 … up to 105 miles. What a gift from God to be able to MOVE!

    Some perspective: forget the Granny seat, get the cycling shorts. By ALL means get the Halt! (brand) pepper spray to fend off dog attacks. Do I need to come down there and talk to you about the necessity of a HELMET? Saved my skull when I got hit after many, many years of accident free riding.

    Cycling is a relief for me; I, too, pastor. It gets you moving, is easy on the joints, etc. Meeting up with other cyclists while out and about gives you the opportunity to build a relationship in order to evangelize. Unless it is COMPETITIVE cycling, you can talk while you ride (and listen!) — not many other activities afford you that opportunity.

    Good post, my friend. And for someone “new” to it all (again), you gave good advice! I might quibble with you a bit on #5 …

  6. Amanda Says:

    Thanks for the encouragement for me to get back to regular biking. 🙂 However, I’d have to add one more suggestion:

    Carry some basic tools with you (your average multi-tool pocketknife should do, and a mini tire pump is also nice). Having gotten multiple flats/misc. breakdowns well into extended rides on back roads and trails, these can be a huge help. Happy biking!

  7. Too funny–Tim!

    Yes, I ditto the bike helmet and we won’t elaborate why on that one considering the ‘post’ title. 🙂

    I use a Camelbak for the long rides and do take a spare tube and mini tire pump.

    Enjoyed the post! Laughing WITH you, not AT you!

  8. dwpoyner Says:

    I just bought a bike about a month ago now. It is great exercise, and lots of fun in the process. Looking forward to getting even more comfortable and riding down some actual (non-paved) trails.

    I agree with the previous poster. Skip the water bottle, and buy a hydration pack, a CamelBak or something. Spare tube and pump a necessity. 23 miles would be an even longer walk home…

  9. Great comments. Trust me, I need all the advice and help I can get. I was riding the other day, and my rear deflector was loose and somehow just popped off while riding (shows how much I know!).

    My parents broke down and gave me a little cash, begging me to get a helmet, so I think that will be my next purchase (and maybe a water bottle too). My head is big enough as it is, so I have self-conscious reservations I guess. I don’t need any help in looking goofy. 😉

    My bike tool right now is a little 9-piece hex set that has a phillips head and one or two other tools. I have used it basically for taking things off and adjusting the seat. I do need more tools, though. Oh, and the pepper spray. Yeah, I though that was a lady’s security thing, but I see what you guys are getting at.

    Regarding relationships in cycling, I will talk about this later, but there are two specific hobbies I am hoping to use to develop relationships in FL–photography and cycling. I think these would be useful avenues in meeting folks in a new environment. Not working in a secular environment like UPS will make the challenge of building relationships with unbelievers all the more challenging.

    Oh, and for those of you who bike, do you use a Camelpak hydration pack or anything similar to it? I’ve had one for hiking that I used often, but it’s too big for biking. Just curious.

  10. Okay,

    So two people answered my last question while I was typing it. Now that’s pretty sweet.

  11. 23 miles would be an even longer walk home . . .

    Ouch. I will pretend like I was hurt so someone could feel sorry for me and give me a ride! Just kidding.

    So the spare tire thing. How much? Is it deflated? Bulky to carry?

    And I was told that you needed a pump with compressed CO2 in order to pump the high pressure tires. Is that true? I think I saw some mini pumps with CO2 at the bike store the other day. Is that what you guys use?

    And Jennifer – your laughs are covered at my expense. 🙂

  12. Glenn Baker Says:


    Your all-in-one hex set will do you fine out on the road. Rather than a mini-pump, I carry CO2 cartridges that uses a mini-inflator. The Halt! (brand) pepper spray shoots a thick stream that is not prone to wind drift. It works. Postal carriers use the stuff.

    I use the two water bottles for short rides 30-40 miles or less; the Camelbak for longer rides. I am assuming you use cycling shoes that click-in to the pedals. I’d recomment some inexpensive cleat covers (under $5) that will fit in your jersey pocket in case something should break on the bike that cannot be repaired by the road. The cleat covers allow you to walk without damaging the shoes AND allow you to be more sure-footed. Also assuming you carry a cellphone. I’d be glad to send you some good web resources if you want to contact me via e-mail.

    I enjoy cycling!

  13. Glenn,

    That’s helpful stuff. Do you mind sharing what kind of Camelbak you guys use? I’ve look at a couple but cannot exactly remember what their names were.

    As far as the pedals go, I actually have the old school kind. I’d like to get cleats eventually, but as you can tell by what I have not bought yet (such as a helmet of all things), I am working on a tight budget.

    Apparently, there are several of you who are either regular cyclists or at least ride on occasion. Perhaps I could blog on this on a semi-regular basis and discuss some stuff. I’ve got friends who are doing this with running, and we already do it with photography (on Friday’s). So why not cycling? 🙂

    I’ll think about that.

    Oh, and for those interested, I linked to this last week, but here’s a map I created of most of the multi-sport races in Florida for the remainder of 2008:

  14. Kip Russell Says:

    First off… thanks again for the PRC. There are many of us out West growing as a result of it.

    Second… glad to hear you’ve caught the cycling bug. I did road racing as a ‘kid’ (18-23) but quit shortly thereafter, riding only 2-3 times a month. Several years ago I learned that cycling really can be fun so I’m starting to ride more and more. I’m in Colorado, so the hardest think to find here is a flat road. Even our flat rides gain and lose a fair amount of elevation.

    The number one tip I can provide is EAT. Eat before and if you’re riding more than an hour, during your ride. Nothing worse than being 5 miles from home, hitting the wall, and starting to pedal in ‘squares.’

    I use a Camelbak Roque (big enough for essentials, but not big enough to climb Mt. Everest). Sometimes I’ll mix a standard water bottle with an energy drink (much stronger than normal) and take small sips from it in addition to longer drinks from my Camelbak.

    As others have mentioned, forget the granny seat and buy shorts… please, though, don’t walk around in the grocery store in cycling shorts/shoes 😉

  15. Kip,

    First, I am really encouraged to hear that the PRC is blessing you guys out West. I love to hear feedback!

    I remember look at the Rogue and I think the Mule (which is a little larger). They are a little pricy if I recall (around $80), but I suppose it would be worth the investment.

    For nutrition, my friend Dan eats these gel packs, but he told me they are absolutely nasty. As far as my ride today went, though, I would have downed anything. 😯

    Pedaling in squares? That sounds bad. I don’t know if I experienced that today, but I can tell you that some of those hills felt like they wouldn’t end! But yeah, I am going to put myself on a nutrition schedule, beginning with the detox from caffeine (I don’t do coffee, but I am way too faithful a Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper drinker).

    Oh, and the granny seat was a joke, but with a big fat helmet, I don’t know. Perhaps I could win Mr. Congeniality in some of those races. 😉 And I have seen *that guy* who walks in the grocery store with those goofy spandex bike shorts, helmet with the rear view mirror attached, and clickety cleats. He’s got nerves, big time.

  16. Kip Russell Says:

    He either has “nerves, bit time” or absolutely no capability for self-examination 😉

  17. Now that’s funny!

    I wonder he is married. Dude, my wife would never let me out in public looking like that!

    I tell you, these athletes trying to make fashion statements with their gear . . .

  18. Hey all,

    I forget to mention one last thing. Any of you have a bike computer? Any recommendations? I’ve been looking at some in the Sigma line . . .

  19. Glenn Says:

    Cycle computer? You bet. CATEYE. They are easy to install, easy to setup and “bullet-proof.”

  20. Kip Russell Says:

    I agree… Cateye has been around forever and is awesome. I did a website for a company called Colorado Cyclist recently and they carried Sigma, which also had great reviews. I use a Polar, but it is also a heart rate monitor and may be more than you care to mess with. If possible go wireless, simply for convenience sake (less wires).

  21. Kip Russell Says:

    I can’t believe I just mentioned above that ‘wireless’ meant ‘less wires.’ Wow, can you delete that 😉

  22. Mark Says:

    Yeah. The funky padded bike shorts look a little non-masculine, but they’ll save you from walking funny. I wear gym shorts over the top of them, and keep my dignity that way.

    Way to go with the exercise. Florida (my native state!) will be good for year-round cycling. Unlike St. Louis. 😦

  23. CATEYE, eh? Never heard of it before, but then again, I haven’t heard much! Have you guys seens the Garmin Bike Computer. It looks sweet but really high priced. Here’s the Garmin product line for bike computers:


    I have seen some of those shorts that look almost normal but have the extra padding in them. Those are more down my alley. Yes, when I realized that God was leading me to FL, I knew that I would have opportunities to do stuff like cycling that I haven’t really had before. My goal is to bike through most of the city of Cape Coral so that I can stop at shops and stores in order to meet people and get a feel for the culture there. You can’t really do that in a car or with a drive-by approach. So anyway, I will just remember to not whear black slacks and a white button up dress shirt and tie when I go!

  24. Kip Russell Says:

    Timmy- I have seen the Garmin computers and they are awesome! Just a matter of what you want to spend 😉

  25. Timmy,
    I don’t bike, but I have a friend who is nearly a fanatic. Therefore, I will pass on advice that he gave to me.

    When you get those bike shorts, make sure you have a pair of mesh shorts to wear over them. Otherwise, your wife (with good reason!) won’t let you out of the house.

  26. Well, I thought today I would try to do something different, beginning with bringing water and my cell phone as recommended. I put down 11 miles in 40 minutes. Don’t know if that is a decent time, but it felt good.

    And I knew where I was going too, so that made me feel better. 🙂 I updated the map above with Route 5 which I rode today.

    To anyone, what is a decent average speed for a 15-20 mile ride? Sometimes I really feel like I am poking along . . .

  27. Glenn Says:

    As to the computers: Garmin can set you back several hundred because it is GPS-based. The CATEYE computers that will give you: speed, distance, avg. speed, elapsed time, cadence under $40. Get one that also gives you the heart rate and you’re looking somewhere around $60-75. Since you want to run, too, I’d recommend a POLAR watch-type that also works either running OR cycling.

    Re: A “decent average” will simply depends upon the fitness of the cyclist, the terrain, total distance, etc. For someone who simply loves cycling (and is not a pro or a weekend pro) 15-17 mph AVERAGE is a fairly brisk pace for most people who cycle regularly. For an beginning/occassional cyclist 10-14 mph AVERAGE would be “decent.”

  28. Yeah, I think I am going to go with either the CATEYE or Sigma. They seem like the most affordable for what I am needing.

    I am not good at math, but I have been trying to figure how how fast I was going yesterday when I did the 11 miles in 40 minutes. My guess is that my average speed was 13-16 mph.

  29. Glenn Says:

    You averaged 16.5 mph. That’s not bad, dude!

  30. Well, it was a rather flat course. I think the greatest incline was under 100 ft. at any ascent. Several little hills, but nothing that made me climb for more than 30 seconds. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the degree of difficulty a 4 or 5.

  31. Carol Blair Says:

    Glenn Baker wrote:

    ” The Halt! (brand) pepper spray shoots a thick stream that is not prone to wind drift. It works. Postal carriers use the stuff.”

    I always carry pepper spray when I go for walks, and I have had to use it three times on dogs that have come out at me in the street. I have searched the internet for “Halt” brand but have not been able to find it. Where is it available?

    Carol Blair
    Longview, TX

  32. Carol,

    Took a little hunting, but I think I found the link. Here it is:

    Oh, and apparently you can buy it on amazon:

    One last thing I noticed: Halt! cannot be shipped via air (see MSDS) but can only be delivered via ground. If you buy online, I would make sure to check out the shipping availability for the product.

  33. Glenn Says:

    Regarding the Halt! brand spray: Your local bicycle shop should carry it OR can get it in for you. They can also contact the company via an 800 number or via e-mail and find a distributor in their area.

  34. Thanks for passing that info along Glenn!

  35. Great biking story with a lot of good suggestions. The part that jumped out at me was about the big dogs. I have had experiences with dogs while biking. But I don’t let it stop me.
    The life of a cyclist is an interesting one – and sometimes dangerous. But the rewards of cycling are worth the challenges.
    Gliding along, with the refreshing breeze giving you a boost, a feeling of freedom and a chance to enjoy a lovely countryside. I sometimes compare the joys of biking with flying –except at ground level.
    There are those challenges, as I mentioned, and sometimes they can be painful. Like the time a woman opened her driver’s-side door just as I was preparing to pass her parked car. Now that was painful – for both of us. She admitted that she should have been more careful and checked her side-view mirror before opening her door. No permanent harm done to either of us.
    Sometimes I feel as though all drivers have a thing about bikers. As if we just don’t belong on the streets. There are drivers who seem irritated that they have to be on guard for us and give us the right-of-way where warranted. It’s really odd when you think about it, because after all many of those drivers are also bikers. And I am also a driver.
    At many intersections you feel as though you have to read the driver’s mind. It becomes a game – albeit a potentially deadly one. You are coming up on a car that has his right turn signal on and you are going straight through. Many cyclists like to make a statement about their rights and boldly dash straight ahead, daring the driver to turn into them.
    I am never that daring. Or you can call me a chicken if you like. I simply don’t trust the odds, even if they are 1,000 to 1 in my favor. I will assume the driver doesn’t see me, or he expects me to stop, because I will always hesitate until I see him wave me through. That phrase “he was dead right, but he was still dead” comes to mind.
    One of the most dangerous challenges is the pothole. And in the Spring there are countless numbers of them. You simply have to be on guard for them at all times. If you ever hit a deep one, as I did once, you learn your lesson. They can really shatter your teeth. And you can find yourself going head-over-handlebars. Eternal vigilance is the watchword.
    Then there are the dogs. I like dogs. Most of them are friendly. And most of them are also restrained, either on a leash or behind a fence. But there are the occasional stray dogs that get excited about a cyclist whizzing by and just have to give chase. I always wondered what would happen if they actually caught up to you – until one did. And I found out. He bit me.
    Talk about pain. And the blood is scary. But the worst thing was that the dog disappeared before I or anyone else could restrain him and get him checked for rabies. That meant, of course, that I would have to take those painful rabies shots just in case the dog was diseased.
    From that day on I realized that I couldn’t take that chance again. I had to be prepared for the next dog that wants to give chase. So I had to find something that would give the dog a reason to decide he made a mistake to chase me, but at the same time not do anything that really hurt the dog or left any lasting harmful effects.
    My biker friend Tom gave me the answer after I mentioned the problem to him. He said he went to and bought the perfect solution. It’s a mace dog repellent that, with one spray, will halt any dog in its tracks. And it’s humane. There is no lasting after-effects.
    The great thing is that it’s less than $15, well worth it for solving my dog problem. It provides a velcro-like attachment so that I can secure the unit to my bike.
    Wouldn’t you know that I haven’t had the need to try out my mace dog repellent. I haven’t been singled out by another loose dog since I bought it.
    Just as well. I really would rather not have to mace a dog. But it’s a great feeling to know that I have a deterrent with me. I no longer even have to think about it. I just enjoy that feeling of freedom and observing the world going by. There’s nothing like cycling.

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